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Last updated at 12:27 BST, Friday, 18 May 2012

HIV home testing


17 May 2012

A panel of scientists in the United States has recommended that a home testing kit for the HIV virus be approved for sale. The experts unanimously backed the ground-breaking product, known as OraQuick, after concluding that it would help identify carriers who are currently unaware that they are HIV positive.


Steve Kingstone

Automated blood sample testing

Blood tests have traditionally been used to detect the HIV virus.


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If the panel's recommendation is taken up by the Food and Drug Administration, OraQuick would become the first instant HIV test available over the counter in America. Using a mouth swab to detect the presence of antibodies, it delivers a result in just twenty minutes. In home trials, the product proved 93 per cent accurate, compared with 99 per cent accuracy when similar tests are conducted by medical professionals.

Supporters say the kit would advance the fight against HIV Aids by encouraging more people to test for the virus in the privacy of their own homes. Currently, almost a quarter of a million Americans are believed to be HIV positive without realising it - that's roughly a fifth of all infections.

Researchers estimate that, each year, the new test would identify an additional 45,000 carriers of the virus and avert four thousand new transmissions. But the panel also advised that the packaging should carry warnings about the variable accuracy of home-testing, and a toll-free phone number offering counselling to those testing positive.

There are already other home tests on the US market. But they require a blood test which must be sent to a laboratory for analysis. Last week, another FDA panel recommended for the first time a drug to protect healthy people from contracting HIV.


Click to hear the vocabulary


over the counter

without needing a prescription

mouth swab

cotton wool used to collect cell samples from the mouth


proteins which fight infection and disease


tests or experiments


likelihood of being correct


being free from the interference of others






specialist advice and guidance


getting a disease